Sunday, August 03, 2008

Galápagos: the adventure begins

Actually the adventure began in the spring of 2007, when the James Randi Educational Foundation announced The Amazing Adventure 3: The Galápagos. They had chartered a "cruise" through Darwin's archipelago. The ship is Celebrity's Xpedition and holds fewer than 100 guests, so it's not one of those superhotels that floats seven stories high above the water. But it's large for the waters of the Galápagos. I'm nowhere near being able to afford such a cruise, but I could not miss the chance to sail with Randi and dozens of skeptics through the islands that inspired The Origin of Species and the modern notion of natural selection. So I booked passage.

The Amazing Adventure 3 begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador. So flights to and from had to be booked. I did so in September of 2007. Today I was given notification that my flight itinerary had been changed. Usually this means a flight time has been changed by five minutes. But this one involved whole new flights. With a 10-minute layover between flights 2 and 3 of the journey from Sacramento to Quito.

So much for booking a $1000 flight nearly a year in advance. The apologies flowed freely when I called OrbitzTLC. Apologies don't get you from Sacramento to Quito on the day you booked. One helpful suggestion was to fly out of Los Angeles instead of Sacramento. It's all just California when viewed from Bangalore. I wonder how many Detroitians are asked to rebook with departures from NYC. Probably not so many.

After more failure from Orbitz, I suggested they book my flights starting a day in advance (to this point they had been keen to get me in a day late). So that's what I've got now. Though I had meticulously reserved shady window seats (window seats opposite the sun) for all flights, who knows how many middle seats I'll be dealt now?

Orbitz was willing to cut me loose and fend for myself with 5 days to go before a flight booked nearly a year ago. Gutsy operation they run. While on hold, I was able to see what Travelocity had to offer. One seat left on a couple of sweet $2300 fares.

Ultimately, this snafu is American's fault. They must have cancelled my DFW-MIA flight. Hey, now that the flights had to be rebooked, I'll probably get to pay the new baggage fee that I would have been spared if I didn't need to rebook. Excellent.

As it is, I now need to book a hotel for my newly-required overnight in Dallas. Always good to get a chance to pay more out-of-pocket for the privilege of additional inconveniences.

When they screw up the return flights, the result will be missing a second of the first two days of school.

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